Police and crime commissioner – no surprises but a big increase in turn-out

David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, standing in front of a Hertfordshire Police signConservative David Lloyd has been re-elected. Most people don’t know who their Police Commissioner is and surveys have shown that many have no idea what they do. Something’s obviously changed in Hertfordshire, though, because turn-out for the vote more than doubled, from a disastrous 14.5% in 2012 to an almost creditable 29% this year – and that’s in a year with no local authority elections to boost the vote.

None of the candidates secured 50% of the vote in the first round so counting went to a second round, in which Lloyd beat the Labour candidate Kerry Pollard 126,069 votes to 85,854. Chris White, the Liberal candidate, came third, with 38,488 of first round votes. The UKIP candidate, who is a financial adviser to ‘professionals and the comfortably well-off’ in Royston, came dead last.

Here’s what we know about Radlett’s new bookshop

Segrue Books logoNews that a new shop is opening in Radlett doesn’t usually cause much of a stir. But when we heard that David and Amanda Segrue were planning to open a bookshop right here in Radlett, we really were excited. I spoke to David about the project:

Tell us what kind of bookshop you’re planning, David. What will it be called?

“We thought long and hard about the name and talked about successful bookshops. They’re all named after their founders so we came up with the name Segrue Books of Radlett. It took some time to get used to a bookshop having our name on it! We put Radlett in the name as we want the bookshop to be part of the community and for the people of Radlett to feel the shop belongs to the village. The shop will have a good range of fiction – mid-market and literary. Non-fiction will range from history and politics through to popular psychology, science and travel. We’ll also stock illustrated books including cookery, design and practical art, plus a good selection of children’s books.”

Radlett’s well within range of Amazon’s same-day delivery service. What makes you think there’s still a place for physical bookshops in 2016?

“Amazon provides an online shopping service that suits some consumers, but there are many book buyers who want to browse in a good bookshop. They want to touch a book and get a feel for it before they buy it. It’s very hard to really get a feel for a book on a screen. The other key to success in bookselling is the way the shop presents its books and gifts, the knowledge of the booksellers and their customer service. We can order almost 500,000 books for next-day delivery too.”

What’s your background? Have you run bookshops before?

“I’ve worked in the industry for 24 years as a sales agent for independent publishers, I supply everyone from Waterstones and WHSmith to museums, galleries and independent bookshops. I advise publishers on packaging of books and cover design. Amanda started life working in the city and for the last 14 years has managed finance for our sales agency. Neither of us have run a bookshop but have the trade experience. We’ll be employing an experienced bookshop manager and booksellers.”

We hear that 30% of your shop will be children’s books. Why are kids’ books so important?

“Children’s books have grown in sales for the last three to four years and the quality goes from strength to strength. Children are continually distracted by screens from phones and tablets to televisions. Books are a beautiful, tactile object that can help focus children’s minds, help calm children and inspire creativity.”

Will your shop reflect your own interests?

Amanda will bring a sense of calm to the shop with her interest in interior design, she has a flair for it. The key to success in bookselling is to build a shop’s stock around the local market, we’ll build the opening stock based on our knowledge of the local area. We’ll buy a small amount of gift product to sell and Amanda and I will do this to suit the taste of the locals.”

There’s the exciting prospect of ‘locally-made cakes’. Tell me more about the cafĂ©.

“Amanda’s a tea drinker and has picked Tea Pigs as our supplier for tea, it will be served in pots with tea cups the way tea should be. I’m a coffee drinker and am insistent that you can’t serve coffee unless it is the best coffee. All the staff will be trained as baristas as well as being expert booksellers. Amanda is currently tasting cakes from a number of local bakers that make cakes at home, when we say home-made we mean home-made.”

Will you put on events, readings and meet-the-authors?

“There’s great excitement in the book trade for the shop opening, publishers are always keen to find new bookshops to promote authors. We’ll be looking for author signings and meet-the-author talks. We’ll look to run a bookclub which can also attract authors to meet bookclub members. We’re also looking to run children’s events tied in with authors and activity books. Our 11 year-old son wants to read to children on a Saturday and during the holidays.”

I hear you’ve taken the location of the old Wine Rack. Will you retain the parking spaces in front?

“The parking spaces are owned by the shops along the parade and so the 4 spaces in front of the shop are owned by Segrue Books of Radlett. We love the idea people can park outside, pop in for a coffee and a book and not have to worry about parking.”

You can sign up for email updates about the new bookshop on the Segrue Books web site.

The farmers’ market has landed

Peter McCarthy from McCarthy's Country Store, at Radlett farmers' market
Peter McCarthy from McCarthy's Country Store.

I nipped down to Newberries car park – the one behind Budgen’s – this morning to experience the first day of operation of Radlett’s experimental farmers’ market. About a dozen stalls with a good range of produce – meat, bread, cheese, plants and honey plus a couple of slightly more offbeat products – were all present and the place was quite busy. Stallholders told me they were pleased with the turnout, especially for day one. The market is run by a large specialist firm and the stallholders present were all professionals in this game. I suspect this is the case with most ‘farmers’ markets’ these days. Not the bucolic, self-organising, community-driven ideal you may have been expecting. Peter McCarthy, whose McCarthy’s Country Store pitches up at over thirty markets per month, told me he’d expect the Radlett market to do well.

I had a particularly nice chat with Mr and Mrs Gorski, whose Hertfordshire Honey stall stocked only the product of their own hives in Benington near Stevenage. Consequently I am significantly better-informed about the different types of honey, about the flowering of hazels and willows and about the booming honey market than I was this morning. Ask me anything. Mr Gorski told me they sell everything they produce and thus won’t be needing any further publicity. Hence no photo of Mr Gorski!

As to the produce, I can confirm that the Gorskis’ light honey is delicious and that the sourdough stilton and raisin bread from Redbournbury Watermill is mindblowing with a bit of cheese on it. The market is set to run on the third Sunday of the next two months, so the next one will be on 15th May.

Did you go down to the market? What did you think? Will it be a hit? Or is the location a bit too well-hidden (that’s my concern)? Leave a comment below. Sadly I only had my iPhone on me so the pictures are a bit rubbish – more here, though and Clive Glover has some more pics and some interesting background on the three-month trial on his Radlett blog. And, by the way, there was a terrific Food Programme about the mother of all farmers’ markets – Borough Market – on Radio 4 today. Well worth a listen.

Honey from Hertfordshire Honey in Benington
Honey from Hertfordshire Honey in Benington.
Peter Coleman from Laycroft Free Range Poultry
Peter Coleman from Laycroft Free Range Poultry
Martin from Redbournbury Watermill at Radlett farmers' market
Martin from Redbournbury Watermill. Martin wins 'Best Facial Adornment' for this month by a mile.
Bread from Redbournbury Watermill at Radlett farmers' market
Bread from Redbournbury Watermill, including a killer raisin and stilton sourdough.

Standing room-only for anti-incinerator meeting

The WING group's anti-incinerator public meeting at the Radlett Centre on 24 March 2011

UPDATE: I’ve added details of the campaign’s Twitter account.

The Radlett Centre was full to the doors for last night’s public meeting. And the WING anti-incinerator group‘s formidable package of information and political organisation went down well with the assembled crowd. The campaign has evident clout – what other campaign could attract two local MPs to a public meeting affecting constituents of only one? (correction: a comment points out the the Harper Lane site is actually in the constituency of Anne Main so this is clearly the concern of both MPs). Both spoke strongly against the scheme, questioning the legality of the local authority’s process as well as the usefulness of the scheme and its potential impact on the village. Calls from the floor for disclosure of the contact details of all the Hertfordshire councillors involved in the decision met with raucous approval. As did the suggestion that those of us who buy our electricity from E.ON, the Radlett scheme’s sponsor, should switch to another supplier.

There is much anger about the incinerator – at least amongst those represented in the room. But it’s not clear how much opposition there is in the wider community for a scheme that, if built, will occupy a former aggregate yard a mile from the village. If I were a councillor on the relevant committee I’d have my tin hat at the ready right now.

The WING group has a Facebook page and a blog and is on Twitter. The organisers are cleverly mobilising environmental opposition to incinerators in general for the campaign – there are plenty of useful links on the blog. There doesn’t seem to be a hashtag for the campaign yet but I’m sure one will emerge.